Linus Pauling's Notebooks Now Available on the Web

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Not all of Pauling's achievements occurred in the lab.

By the 1950s, the accomplished scientist was alarmed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He gathered the signatures of 11,000 scientists around the world on a petition calling for nuclear testing to stop, then presented it to the United Nations.

His campaign, supplemented by a book titled No More War, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He previously had received a Nobel Prize for chemistry, in 1954.

Pauling remained politically active throughout his life. His notebooks include drafts of his "open letter" to President Bush opposing the Gulf War, in which he wrote: WAR IS IMMORAL! As human beings, we have the duty to strive to decrease the amount of human suffering. WAR CAUSES HUMAN SUFFERING!

Public health was another arena of interest. In the 1970s, Pauling became an enthusiastic advocate of vitamin C. He felt strongly that large doses of it could fight the common cold and even help battle cancer, a treatment he advocated for his own wife after she was diagnosed with cancer in 1976.

Wealth of Material

Before his death, Pauling wrote: "I made the decision to place my personal papers, medals, and other materials, and my wife's papers, in the OSU libraries. I did so because I had confidence in OSU's ability to preserve these materials and to make them available to scholars around the world for generations to come."

The online availability of the papers—a vast array of primary and uncensored material—"represents a milestone in archival accessibility and a great boon for scientists, historians, teachers, and students," said Tom Hager, the author of Force of Nature: The Life of Linus Pauling.

The huge amount of material in the scientist's notebooks is enough to keep scientists and other interested readers busy for quite a while. But there may be even more to come, Petersen said.

In addition to his research notebooks, Pauling created an extensive collection of pocket diaries, carrying them with him at all times to record sudden ideas, instant impressions of places and people, and even a favorite joke.

Peterson hopes the pocket diaries will eventually supplement the wealth of archival information now available in the form of the scientist's research notebooks.

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